A quick look at the performance trends over the past five years in the San Juan Health Service District may give some insight into the challenges currently faced by the district. The district operates San Juan Hospital and clinics in Monticello and Blanding.
The financial figures were presented at the February meeting of the health care board. Operating revenues for the district have remained steady in the past five years, while operating expenses have increased by nearly 12 percent.
Officials discussed a comparison of district financial trends that was made with another Critical Access Hospital in rural Utah. The comparison shows that the San Juan Health Service District pays more in salaries and benefits than the other system.
Total operating expenses are seven or eight percent higher for the San Juan Health District than for the comparable rural district and the main difference is in salary and benefits.
For instance, in 2013, 53 percent of the operating expenses in the San Juan Health Service were paid in salaries and benefits.
By comparison, the other system in rural Utah paid 47 percent of operating expenses for salaries and benefits.
Officials have stated that future contracts with physicians and other providers are likely to be adjusted from the current levels.
The number of patients admitted to San Juan Hospital has dropped by more than 30 percent over a five-year period, from 1,671 in 2009 to 1,269 in 2013.
At the same time, the number of surgeries performed at the hospital has increased by more than 60 percent, from 487 in 2009 to 795 in 2013. The growth in surgeries has been a bright spot for the hospital. The figure includes a growing number of orthopedic surgeries by Dr. Mac Wyman.
Clinic visits to the San Juan Clinic in Monticello have increased more than 40 percent since the construction of a new clinic building adjacent to San Juan Hospital. Visits to the clinic in Blanding have remained relatively steady. Overall, total clinic visits have grown by 20 percent over the five-year period.
The district is in the midst of a cash crisis that has been brought about, in part, by billing challenges caused by a new Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system.
The district pays $29,000 per month to maintain the EMR system, even while billings have dropped since the system was installed.
At the current time, it takes the district about 90 days, on average, to collect payment. By contrast, payments are generally received in about 30 days by Blue Mountain Hospital in Blanding.
In other matters at the February board meeting, the board discussed possible changes in a discount program for county residents.
At the current time, county residents can earn a 25 percent discount on their hospital bill if the bill is paid within 90 days. This is on the balance remaining after the insurance companies have paid their portion.
Payments for self-pay clinic visits can be reduced by a similar amount if payment is made within 30 days.
The board tabled a motion to make a change in the discount structure. However, they will consider additional analysis and possibly make a change in the next 90 days.